Since I cannot even keep up with the work I have to do, I don’t often venture into the comments section of the blogs I read. But I woke up yesterday morning to a headline on The Truth About Guns that caught my eye: “Shooting at Gay Pride Parade Not Sexual Orientation Related.”
The story initially caught my attention because I was in San Francisco on Thursday and Friday last week, when the Supreme Court’s decision on same sex marriage came out. The timing right before Pride weekend made me think that there would be huge crowds out in San Francisco. And crowds make me nervous. So I was glad I would be gone by then.
So, I was not altogether surprised that there was a shooting. But I was surprised, and disappointed, at TTAG jefe Robert Farago’s commentary. So I jumped into the mosh pit and made a comment. (Unfortunately, in response to my comment, Farago edited his original text and the original text is not in the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, so I can only recount it by memory.)
Farago picked up on a CNN story about the shooting, which had sketchy details and links to two social media videos (one from YouTube and one from Instagram, neither of which showed the actual shooting). He then noted it was “funny how” CNN and other (unnamed) media outlets neglected to mention the ethnicity (African American) of the individuals involved because the incident may have been gang related.
To which I commented: Why mention their ethnicity because it appears gang related? Seems the gang related part is what is relevant. And gang members come from all ethnic groups.
Farago responded by editing the text “slightly,” as he put it. The new/current text reads: “The Instagram video at the link shows several black men confronting each other before the shooting. Funny how CNN and other media outlets neglected to mention their potential gang affiliation.”
To which I responded: Still don’t see how the skin color reference adds to our understanding of the sutuation. I was in Waco when the Twin Peaks event went down. It was helpful to know that biker gangs were involved. Knowing the skin color of the bikers was irrelevant. Same here, though I think you have betrayed your true feelings.
From there the discussion shot off in a number of directions, none of which seemed to justify the Truth About Guns calling its readers “The Armed Intelligentsia”. For example, a brief exchange with davidx:
Ben then jumped in:
Grindstone and Indiana Tom tried to help Ben, though Indiana Tom did so by invoking some statistics that had nothing to do with the case at hand:
Finally, Daily Beatings jumped in with some statistics on gang participation rates culled (apparently, I did not verify) from the FBI:
Which led to (what I hope will be) my final comment on the original post and the thread of replies.
Thanks, Daily Beatings, for sharing these gang statistics. I see that Ben has not stepped in to accept that his claim — “Most of the current criminal gangs in this country are comprised almost entirely of young black men. It’s not racist to say that. Stop dancing around the truth” — is empirically false. And to explain why he perceived it to be true, like Robert Farago has not explained why he felt it to be important to call out the media for not identifying the race of the individuals involved in the fracas.
Remember that my initial post about this story asked why Robert Farago took time in his discussion of this video to make a side comment about the fact that CNN and other media outlets failed to identify the race of the individuals involved. He subsequently revised his text to read: “The Instagram video at the link shows several black men confronting each other before the shooting. Funny how CNN and other media outlets neglected to mention their potential gang affiliation.”
Pretty weak. The racial identification remains descriptively accurate and irrelevant. Just as Indiana Tom’s pointing out homicide rates by race remains descriptively accurate and irrelevant TO UNDERSTANDING THIS VIDEO.
Gang membership is very much driven by social position rather than race/ethnicity, though race/ethnicity obviously also affects social position. Hence, 100 years ago criminal gang activity was associated with certain white immigrant groups (esp. Italians, Irish).
Last, I am neither PC nor opposed to racial identifications when they are helpful to understanding social phenomena, like the interaction between race and being a gang member on being shot (see https://gunculture2point0.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/more-on-dismissed-research-on-gun-shot-victims-in-chicago). Using racial identifications when they are not relevant, however, lessens one’s credibility.